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Putting the 'Success' in Succession Planning
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 photo 080d684d-0b5d-4ef1-ab8d-ea7e54d3f694.jpg There is a lot written about the continuing exit of Baby Boomers from their volunteer leadership roles, and there are equal numbers exiting the workforce in roles as Executive Directors and Chief Staffing Officers of Associations.

When succession is not addressed, there is a risk of real disruption to day to day operations, which may lead to other unplanned attrition of talent. In addition, the strategic objectives and initiatives may slow down as the focus shifts to resolving a smooth transition of leadership and knowledge transfer.

For those associations that engage professional management firms to assist them with accelerating their objectives and fulfilling their mission, succession planning can be incorporated right into the operational model of the organization and made significantly easier. How?

1. Association Management Companies (AMCs) must manage the career development needs of their staff, which include career progression opportunities that are created when an experienced Association Executive leaves or retires. AMCs must continue to identify opportunities related to normal succession events and train and develop talent accordingly so that when the time is right, there is a new leader ready, willing, and able to assume responsibility.

2. AMCs often serve as executive placement firms in helping standalone organizations attract, hire and retain qualified Executive Director candidates. For those AMCs who provide this service, there is the advantage of a built in talent pipeline current, previous, and prospective staff members who may be interested in a new opportunity with a standalone organization. In addition, AMCs know what to look for in terms of qualified candidates and they have an appreciation for the importance of culture fit; every organization is unique!

3. AMCs can support Boards with the identification of succession planning as a priority, and to incorporate supporting actions and timelines into the strategic plan of the organization. When succession planning is a priority initiative for a defined period of time, the Board is involved in a proactive and positive way – rather than a reactive, emergency type of experience. This allows for appropriate input and guidance and limits disruption to the strategic initiatives already underway.

Regardless of the specific methodology, it is imperative that Boards and Executive Directors are both aware of the importance of Succession Planning. It is well worth the time and attention of relevant parties to engage in proactive conversations on this important topic in order to experience a positive change in leadership.

Lori Gordon is the Chief Operating Officer at Association Headquarters in Mt. Laurel, NJ. As COO, Lori leads the day-to-day client services and growth team operations of AH and serves as a guide to prospective new client partners, coordinating and customizing AH’s broad menu of services to fit each client partners’ unique needs.


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